The last time Rocks Off met up with Fat Tony, we drove to his house and called him as we arrived. He told us he'd be out in five minutes. Ten minutes later, we sent him a text. He texted back, apologized for holding us up and said he was on the way out. About seven minutes later, he appeared from the back of his house with a backpack. He got in our car and immediately produced a bottle of champagne from his bag. If we were already fans of his music, which we were, we were instantly even bigger fans at that point. This is one of the many ways Tony has found success in the relatively undefined H-Town music scene. He defines himself and surprises even his closest supporters. "I'm not following the pack," Tony says. Young Houstonians see that, and the young rapper has the attention of a lot of people. "I think people like me because I work hard, because I have several CDs, and they've seen me do stuff before the Fat Tony stuff, and they've seen me playing all the time and writing all the time... They like what I do, and they fuck with my personality." Tony gives away much of his music for free online, which has helped the Third Ward native create a name for himself. "I give [fans] a free album, but they've got to pay to come to shows, and I'm about to drop this RABDARGAB album (which, he reminds us, is coming out SOON), which is totally paid... For smaller artists and independent artists, there isn't a way for albums to leak, so fans have to [buy] it." The economist in us wanted to ask how much he spends on recording and touring and what his return is like... but we didn't have to ask that. Tony's mind is on the music more than the money. "I don't think you can make a lot of money from music anymore, so I don't mind giving away so much of it for free, but I still think music needs to have value; there should be certain things that shouldn't be free." Rocks Off also caught up with Simple Success' Kyle Vento, just before he and Edgar Miranda walked into the studio to record. The remixing/production duo promotes itself via the Internet, a steady schedule of shows and face-to-face interaction, an aspect of selling music that Vento feels many bands these days have forgotten. "I think a lot of people make the mistake nowadays [of thinking] that they can rely only on the Internet, posting up links and saying, 'Here. Listen to my music.' But you've got to make a connection with people," Vento, the group's drummer and guitarist, says. "When you get personal with people... it makes them want to come back." Simple Success' unofficial adviser happens to be Fat Tony. "He put us on... introduced us to a lot of people," Vento says. "We didn't have anyone to mentor us, and he became that for us." The three met a little over a year ago at a small AIDS awareness concert at the University of Houston. Since then, they've stayed in close contact. "The Internet is such a great tool, but you're going to have to go back to the roots," Vento says. "Twenty years ago, [musicians] didn't make it through the Internet. Artists should go back to how everything got started... meeting people and getting out there." Simple Success' next show is March 26 at Frontier Fiesta. Fat Tony's next show is Saturday at Mango's at Free Press Houston's 7th anniversary party.
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